About six years ago I was two winters deep into living in snow country (remember when Truckee/Tahoe was snow country) in a 1991 2wd Toyota Camry – not ideal. I knew I needed something all wheel drive, and the vehicle du jour of Tahoe is the Subaru Outback.
But I had always had a soft-spot for the box-on-wheels that is the Honda Element. I found a used 2005 in a green I like to think evokes the fragrant sage of the high desert eastern Sierra, and it became my ultra-light minimalist motorhome. I loved it from the start.I’ve driven it up to Portland Oregon and down to San Diego, all over the Sierra and California Coast. I’ve packed it with camping gear, climbing gear, bikes, skis and buddies – sometimes all at once. I’ve slept in it, read books while waiting out storms in it, and worked on my laptop in it.
On one trip in particular, I slept comfortably inside near with my mountain bike, backcountry skis, bouldering crash pad, and all the camping and associated gear inside along with me.A kitted out Mercedes Sprinter camper van has lately entered into my dreams, but the Element is a great substitute here in reality – and its easier to park. Just a little less expensive too.
I’ve picked up a few ideas from the Honda Element Owner’s Forum over the years and the threads there have a ton of creative ideas for gear, camping, etc, but here are a few of my favorite add-ons:
- Looprope or similar looped bungee cord across the cargo area – perfect for hanging gear and clothing.
- Cargo Bin – the plastic floor on the Element is fantastic, but a bin is nice for keeping small stuff for rolling away.
- Kuat NV – Hitch-mounted bike rack is super easy to use, no taking wheels off, and comes with a built-in repair stand.
- Nemo Helio Shower – Lynn gives me a hard time for how much I love this, but from cleaning bikes to doing camp dishes, it’s the best.
- Water Container – A lot of campsites have potable water, but its nice to have your own. 5 gallons has been plenty for a weekend with a group or longer for one or two people.
- A Good Cooler – We’ve been using the Igloo Iceless Cooler that plugs into a 12V in the back of the Element – and have had mixed success. It works when you’re driving and its powered, but we spend a lot of time biking, climbing, hiking, etc, and the times we’re driving doesn’t always make up for that, even with blue ice packs in the bottom.